Last week, twenty media voters (out of 243) dared to leave Jadeveon Clowney off their SEC preseason all-conference team. That’s silly. Of course, it’s almost as silly as the concept of going through a formal selection process to officially name a “preseason” team. Clowney was thus denied of winning unanimity in an award for . . . doing nothing. You can say being awesome, and for how great he was last year, but he got selected to the 2012 SEC all-conference team.
The preseason award is superfluous. Almost always, a returning player who was on last year’s list is voted to the team again, wisdom of the crowds and all. Those seniors or players that went pro are then replaced by starters who just missed the year before, or big name recruits moving into starting roles, on the preseason list.
How accurate are the preseason awards in predicting what will happen at season’s end? I compared the preseason and end of season all-conference teams for the last five years in the Atlantic Coast, Big XII, and SEC. From what I can tell, the Big Ten and Pac-12 don’t actually vote on a preseason first team award (though sites like ESPN and Phil Steele put out all-conference team predictions pre-season). If I’m missing where those two conferences have done those, after my exhaustive search, feel free to send them to me.
Turning to the three major conferences in question, here are the percentages of first teamers in the preseason who appeared again on the end of season all-conference first team.
SEC: 49.1% (55 of 112)
ACC: 46.4% (51 of 110)
Big XII: 45.2% (52 of 115)
Overall, the voters in the three conferences managed to put 46.9% of the end of season first team players on their preseason list. The SEC comes out on top again–Roll Damn Southern Media.
Now, let’s look at the breakdown by position, to see what that shows us about these awards. Here they are, from most likely to appear on both lists, to least likely.
- Offensive Linemen: 62.3%
- Wide Receivers: 51.6%
- Linebackers: 50.0%
- Defensive Backs: 49.2%
- Defensive Linemen: 38.6%
- Running Backs: 32.3%
- Tight Ends: 26.7%
- Quarterbacks: 20.0%
You will notice that offensive linemen, a position for which we have no individual statistics, is at the top, while quarterback, the position where everything is measured (even if not always the responsibility of the quarterback) is at the very bottom. This reminds me of what Doug Drinen wrote over seven years ago about reputation vs. information when it came to pro bowl selections. Some of that information can be misleading, but it still provides numbers for players to be judged. Some of that reputation can be valid–the best lineman may still remain the best lineman, and their selection is not being tainted by false attribution of team success or failure.
Only three out of the fifteen quarterbacks selected as preseason first team in the SEC, ACC and Big XII over the last five years have ended up as the first team selection as season’s end. Two of them were named Tim Tebow (Tahj Boyd of Clemson last year was the other). Johnny Manziel may very well end up not having as good a year this year. The popular narrative will be that his hard charging offseason has led him astray. In truth, that would be hard to determine, since most of the quarterbacks expected to be the best in their conference don’t end up putting up the best numbers by season’s end. As far as we know, none of the others got booted from Manning Passing Camp. The more likely explanation is that one of those guys that repeated as both preseason and postseason all-conference, Luke Joeckel, is gone.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]